The French Minister of Public Accounts and Action, which has authority over all tax matters, has taken advantage of the process that is required to transpose the EU E-Commerce Directive to launch a number of initiatives to curb VAT fraud, including a renewed attempt to create a system of mandatory e-invoicing.
Going from B2G to B2B
A program for the gradual implementation of electronic invoicing for business-to-government (public procurement) transactions is currently entering its final stages whereby even small companies will soon be required to send their invoices to public entities via the so-called Chorus platform.
Current President Macron had previously, as Finance Minister under his predecessor François Hollande, already proposed to introduce a similar obligation for B2B e-invoicing, but this proposal was rejected due to inconsistencies with the VAT Directive and a perceived increase in the administrative burden on companies.
However, times have changed and France – like other EU Member States – is seeing new opportunities to go down the B2B e-invoicing mandate path since Italy led the way on 1 January 2019. The Italian government obtained an EU derogation from certain provisions in the VAT Directive which allowed the country to go live with a countrywide e-invoicing mandate that is based on prior real-time controls by the tax administration. Such ‘clearance’ e-invoicing systems, which are generally inspired by the approach taken in the past 5-10 years by Latin American countries, have proven to be very effective tools in the fight against VAT fraud.
A first step to nationwide clearance e-invoicing?
While it’s still too early to talk about a concrete (or theoretical) French proposal for B2B e-invoicing, it is clear that the government means business. Minister Gérald Darmanin has stated that the government will begin a consultation process that involves the private sector to discuss how to best get small and medium sized companies up-and-running as smoothly as possible.